August for dinner

calabacitas con elote y chorizo

I’m finding my eating habits to be more and more in tune with the seasons as I grow older. Except for chocolate, which will always be in season to me.

Growing up in a rural area and seeing everything around me blossom, fruit and die in cycles with the seasons has certainly made me aware, as has working on an organic farm, having local food so easily available, and tasting the difference between sweet corn grown 2 miles away versus sweet corn from the opposite coast in the dead of winter. Although it’s been hard to learn that I can’t have it all whenever I want it, anticipating the summer months and watching my edible garden grow makes in-season produce that much more special. It’s like my mom used to say when I asked why she couldn’t make her amazing Christmas cookies all year long — “because then they wouldn’t be so good!”

Now it allll makes sense.

The good things are certainly worth waiting for, especially when it comes to juicy sweet corn, heirloom tomatoes and zucchini in the summer. I enjoy this dish as soon as the first sweet corn arrives at the market and for as long as the season lasts. It was one of my blog’s early recipes: Calabacitas con elote, or Mexican Zucchini with Corn. The past few summers we had enjoyed it as a side dish, but this year I’ve decided to take advantage of its versatility. The sautéed squash, corn and tomatoes are such a simple combination, but something about them simmering together in their ripe juices with a little fresh oregano gives the dish a rich flavor I can only describe as purely summer.

calabacitas con elote y chorizo

Lately we tried adding local pork chorizo from our neighbors at the farmer’s market, which was a delicious way to make a one-pot meal — and quite the rich & hearty one. For a lighter option you could add pulled chicken, taco-seasoned ground turkey or tofu, or black beans to the mix for a filling and nutritious entree. Another thing I want to try is using the veggie dish as a taco or enchilada filling or adding a little broth to make a summery soup. So many possibilities for this simple dish! Continue reading

garden gazpacho

Gazpacho and I have a thing this summer. How did I never see in it what I do now? I used to compare it to ‘just like drinking a jar of salsa – yuck!’, but now I see it’s so far beyond that. Light, refreshing, complex, pure, and wonderful. Like drinking my summer garden. For breakfast, lunch and/or dinner. Topped with herbed croutons, fancy ceviche, or nothing. I love it, and I love that it helps me keep any of my precious garden tomatoes from going to waste.

Working on an organic farm this summer as well as having 6 plants of my own to tend, you could say I’ve picked my fair share of ‘maters this season. And just look at all the varieties! Each has their own flavor, texture and purpose. Many are heirlooms, which are so flavor-packed and meaty they’re just crying out to be part of a mean BLT. I’ll admit some look pretty darn ugly on the outside. But it’s the inside beauty that counts, right?

summer's tomatoes

I’ve made gazpacho (Spanish chilled tomato soup) maybe 6 times in the past few weeks, enjoying it as an on-the-go breakfast, as a cool refresher after working outside, eating bowls-full for lunch & dinner, and taking it to a cookout for friends to enjoy. Each time I make it is a little different, as I don’t follow a strict recipe and always use a mishmash of tomato varieties. But it’s hard to mess up too bad, unless of course you mistake jalapeños for bell peppers. Here’s my top secret recipe, now go put summer’s bounty to good use! Continue reading

stuffed swiss chard marinara

Having a food blog and all, I know it’s probably assumed I’m an alright cook. But actually.. I gotta confess…. half [if not more] of my attempts in the kitchen are failures.

My creative energy goes to thinking up delicious flavor combinations and out-of-the-ordinary recipes, but not so much to the skill of making it happen. Why? Because something about me refuses to ever follow a recipe exactly. Ever. Whether I’m completely “healthifying” something, making it gluten-free, vegan, substituting ingredients for whatever I have on hand, or leaving an ingredient out completely, I can’t seem to follow anyone’s rules. I also hate using exact measurements and usually eye-ball it or adjust to taste. …Occasionally this rebelliousness works out GREAT, but most times not so much.

Anyway now that my confession is out of the way, I must share with you one of my latest pleasant surprises, a completely made up and guesstimated recipe (if you can still call it a recipe), for stuffed chard marinara, a la my mother and I. Think stuffed shells with greens acting as your shells. Fortunately it’s the kind of dish that’s totally ok for eye-balling measurements and adjusting ingredients & seasoning to your taste. So go cRaAaaazY and make it your own!

stuffed Swiss chard marinara

serves 4

  • 10 swiss chard leaves, washed + patted dry, stem chopped off
  • olive oil for sautéing
  • veggie sausage (chopped into small bits if not ground-sausage style)
  • couple cloves of garlic, minced
  • red bell pepper, chopped
  • white onion, chopped
  • shredded zucchini (optional—had some in the freezer so we threw it in)
  • marinara sauce
  • shredded mozzarella

ricotta mixture:

  • equal parts fat-free and part-skim ricotta (we used maybe 1 cup total?)
  • chopped fresh basil
  • chopped fresh oregano
  • minced fresh garlic or garlic powder
  • sea salt
  • fresh ground pepper
  • squeeze of lemon

Preheat oven to 350F. Heat olive oil in large pan, sauté sausage, peppers and onions until starting to brown. (This is when we added shredded zucchini, but you can simply leave that out!)

Meanwhile, combine ricotta, fresh basil + oregano, garlic, salt, pepper, and a squeeze of lemon in a bowl and set aside.  Spread a thin coat of marinara sauce onto a rectangular baking dish.  When sausage mixture is browned, spoon a dollop onto the end of a chard leaf, followed by a dollop of ricotta mixture. Fold in the ends of the leaf and roll up burrito-style.

Line each rolled leaf, seam-side down, on top of marinara in the baking dish in a single layer so you have 2 rows of 5 roll-ups.  Evenly spoon marinara on top, followed by a sprinkling (or a dumping—your call) of shredded mozzarella. Bake until the cheese begins to brown and the rolls are heated through, 20-30 minutes. Allow your delicious dinner to cool for 5 minutes before serving!

yummmmmmmm. Enjoy!

-mich

 

This post is linked to Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays

Summer Squash

It’s the time of year for the garden to be overflowing with squash, which we must pick or else they will grow to the size of our yellow lab, Benny, and no one wants that.

So what to do with zucchini upon zucchini upon zucchini? Well, get creative of course! Zucchini is loved in our family and my mom often makes her ‘zucchini marinara’ year round, which is simply sautéed squash topped with tomato sauce and mozzarella. As simple and tasty as this is, you can guess it gets old after a while. So here are some of our latest summer squash recipes…. and if you have a favorite I’d love to know about it!

Zucchini Cakes with Goat Cheese, found here

Calabacitas con Elote – Me and mom’s absolute favorite. We really could eat this every day of the summer! It’s such a simple recipe but something about the zucchini and sweet corn simmering together creates a rich, “summery” flavor, if I may call it that :]. I’d like to try adding some vegetable broth and eating it as a soup!

3 large ears sweet white corn or 3 cups thawed frozen whole kernel corn

6 medium zucchini (1 ½ lbs)

2 poblano or California Chiles, roasted & peeled OR 2 canned whole green chiles (mom uses a 4.5oz can of chopped green chiles, because they’re milder)

3 tomatoes, chopped OR 1 15oz can chopped/diced tomatoes

¼ medium onion (use more if desired)

1 ½ T olive oil

¼ t dried leaf oregano, crushed (or use ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro)

¾ t salt

pepper

If using fresh corn, slice kernels off cobs, then scrape cobs with sharp spoon to get juices. Discard cobs. Cut zucchini into ½ – ¼ inch cubes. Cut chiles into short thin strips. Chop tomatoes and onion. Heat oil in saucepan or Dutch oven. Add corn and zucchini cubes. Cook over med-low heat until zucchini is crisp-tender, about 3 min. Add chile strips (or can of chopped chiles), tomatoes (and juice if canned), onions, oregano (if using cilantro, add once zucchini is tender approx 5 min before serving), salt + pepper to taste. Stir. Cover and cook over medium heat 5-10 min until zucchini is tender. Makes 6-8 servings.

Pesto Zucchini Noodles – a healthy substitution for spaghetti noodles with way less cooking involved!

Continue reading